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Juerg's London

Westminster Area

Union Jake flag

Westminster is the "government district" of London. The area lies north of the Thames and is bordered on the the north by St. James, to west Belgravia, south Pimlico and to the east the Thames.

Deans YardVictoria Embankment

The embankment runs from Blackfriars to Westminster. The whole area is reclaimed land, it was built from 1864 to 70 by Sir Joseph Bazalgette. Along this stretch of road there are memorials to the RAF and the Navy's submariners.

Between Horse Guards Avenue and Richmond Terrace, in the garden in front of the Ministry of Defence is Queen Mary's Terrace, the remain of the steps that used to lead down to the quay for Whitehall Palace.

WhitehallAt the other end of Horse Guards Avenue is Whitehall Court, built in 1884. Both H. G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw lived here.


The street runs from Charing Cross to the Parliament Square, the named stems from Tudor times. The area used to be the site of the Whitehall Palace, which to the most part was built by Henry 8 in 1531. In 1533 he married Anne Boleyn and in 1536 Jane Seymour here. He died here in 1547. During the Commonwealth period Oliver Cromwell lived here and in died here in 1658. The palace fell into disuse and in 1698 burned down all that remained was the Banqueting House.

Horse GuardsStarting from Charing Cross.

On the east side is Craig's Court , with the preserved facade of a building dating from about 1700.

Further along on the south side is Great Scotland Yard. The street gets it's name from the fact that visiting Kings of Scotland and their ambassadors stayed here, the first was Kenneth 3 in 959 and the last was Margaret. Inigo Jones is said to have lived here, Milton also had lodgings here. The most famous occupants of the street where the Metropolitan Police Force, who moved here in 1891

Banqueting HallOn the other side of the street is the Admiralty. The buildings are hidden behind a screen that was decorated by Robert Adams. The original buildings date from 1722-6. In 1805 Nelson was laid in state here after his death at Trafalgar. To the south stands Admiralty House which was built in 1786

Further south stands Horse Guards. The entrance and the clock tower where built in 1742-53. It used to be on of the gate houses guarding the entrance to the Palace. On the far side is Horse Guards Parade, where the monarchs official birthday celebration with the trooping of the colour take place . In the time of Henry 8 this used to be the tournament ground.

Banqueting HouseFurther south on the east side of the street , at the junction of Horse Guards Ave stands the Banqueting House. This is a masterpiece built by Inigo Jones from 1619-22. It is the significant part of the Palace that survived the fire. It was from a first floor window, that Charles 1 stepped out on the gallows for his execution in 1649. The Banqueting Hall itself is on the 1st floor and measures 110 by 55 feet, the ceiling was painted by Ruben's in 1635.

Next door stands Gwydyr House which was built in 1772, it now houses the Welsh Office.

On the other side of the street is Dover House built in 1755 and now the home of the Scottish Office.

Further down are the Cabinet Office built in 1737, the current front dates from 1847.

On the western side of Whitehall is Downing Street. The earliest know buildings in this area formed the brew house called the Axe and the street was called Axe Yard. Samuel Pepys lived here from 1658-60. Round about 1680 Sir George Downing bought the land and build a cu-de-sac of plain brick terraced houses. In 1732 part of number 10 was acquired by the crown and George 2 offered it as a gift to Sir Robert Walpole, but he would only accept it for his office as First Lord of the Treasury. Since then it has been the official residence of the British Prime Minister. James Boswell had lodging in the street in 1762. The crown bought 11 in 1805 as the official residence for the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In 1868 the south side of the street was torn down and offices built, only 10, 11 and 12 remained.

On the other side of the street is Richmond Terrace, in 1904 Sir Henry Morton Stanley died here.

Further south in the middle of Whitehall stands the Cenotaph, the national memorial to the "Glorious Dead". It was built in 1919.

At the end of King Charles Street are the Cabinet War Room. It was here that Churchill and his ministers ran the war.

Parliament Square

Until 1868 the area in front of the Houses of Parliament used to be a slum area, it was then cleared and turned into a park. Around the square there are a number of statues including Palmerston, Canning, Peel, Disraeli, Churchill and Lincoln.

Westminster AbbeyOn the eastern side of the square is the Middlesex Guildhall.


Palace of Westminster - Houses Of Parliament

The first building on this site was built by Edward The Confessor, among them was St Stephen's Chapel. It was at the time an island, the banks of the river were close the Abbey. After 1066 William the Conqueror enlarged the buildings. His son William Rufus built Westminster Hall in 1097-9. In 1399 the hall was rebuilt after a fire, by Richard 2. The hall was used for many different activities, it was the location for meeting of the Great Council, the forerunner of the Parliament, and the Courts of Justice. Edward 1's "Model Parliament" meet here. From 1547 St Stephen's Chapel was converted to become the chamber for the Commons. In 1834 there was a major fire and the only parts that remained were Westminster Hall and St Stephen's Chapel.

The Hall and the Chapel have been the site for many historic events, among them, the abdication of Edward 2 in favour of his son in 1327, the barons interview with Richard 2 in 1387 after their rebellion, and in 1399 his deposel In 1417 Sir John Oldcastle (Shakespeare's Falstaff) was condemned here. Edward 4 proclaimed himself King here in 1461. This was were Thomas More and Bishop Fisher where condemned in 1535, as was Anne Boleyn in 1536, and Robert Devereux Earl of Essex in 1601. The trial of Guy Fawkes was held in the hall in 1641. In 1649 Charles 1 was tried and condemned in the hall. Cromwell was installed as Lord Protector in 1653. After the Restoration his head was spiked on the roof.

In 1834 all the building apart from, the Jewel Tower, Westminster Hall and St. Stephen's Chapel were destroyed. The current buildings date from 1837-88, they were designed by Sir Charles Barry with the help of A. W. Pugin. The building incorporated Westminster Hall and St Stephen's Chapel. The new building has 2 towers, the southern one is the Victoria tower which is 336 feet high, and the other the Clock Tower is 320 feet high. Between the 2 towers is the Central Spire which is 300 feet high. The Clock Tower is often referred too as "Big Ben", though this is actually the name of the bell. The bells weighs over 13 tons and ring to the note of E. The clock face is 30 feet in diameter. The ringing of this bell came to symbolize Britain for the world. On the 10 May 1941 the House of Commons was destroyed by German bombs, the rebuilding was complete in 1950.

The Jewel Tower stands in what is now Abingdon St.. It was built in 1327-77 and was used as the Monarchs vault. It was deemed to be necessary to have a purpose built vault after a break in to the previous repository, the Pyx Chapel in 1303.

Westminster Abbey

According to legend the first church of this site was built by King Sebert, a Saxon chief, it was consecrated by Mellitus, the first Bishop of London in 616. The church was dedicated to St. Peter. The site was then a low flat island, known as Thorney Island. The first recorded church here dates from 750. It was a Benedictine Abbey known as Westminster, or "west monastery". In 785 King Offa of Mercia is supposed to have granted a charter to "St Peter and the needy people of God in Thorney in the terrible place which is called Westminster". In 1042 Edward the Confessor undertook the restoration of the church, at the end of 1065 the new church was consecrated, 8 days later he died and was buried before the high alter. The Lady chapel was added in 1220 by Henry 3, and in 1245 he began rebuilding the whole church.

During the dissolution of the monasteries part of the Abbey revenues were transferred to St Pauls, hence the expression "robbing Peter to pay Paul".

Deans YardThe church has always had the role of the "state church". William 1 was crowned in the Abbey in 1066. This was the first coronation, since then all English Monarchs apart from Edward 5 and 8 , have been crowned here. From Henry 3 (1272) until George 3 (1820) all monarchs are buried here. There are also memorials to the great and those who have severed their country, including the unknown warrior.

St Margaret's

To the south stands St Margaret's church. The church was founded in the 12 century by the Abbot of Westminster. In 1189 the Pope declared it to be outside the jurisdiction of the Bishop of London. The original church was rebuilt in 1486-1523. In 1614 it was made the parish church of the House of Commons. In 1734 the walls were cased in Portland stone. The glass in the east window was intend for the Abbey, they were a gift from Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain to celebrate the engagement of Catherine of Aragon and Prince Arthur, but by the time they arrived Arthur had died and she was married to his brother Henry. Samuel Pepys, John Milton and Winston Churchill were married here, William Caxton and Walter Raleigh buried.

Westminster Bridge

This was the second bridge to be built across the river within London. Until 1750 there were no bridges between London Bridge and Putney Bridge.In 1738 Charles Labelye, a Swiss, was given the task of building a bridge. The current bridge dates from 1854-62. Due to it's location next to Parliament, there existed some special laws, namely no dogs, and anybody found defacing the bridge could face the death penalty. From the bridge you have one of the finest views of London.

On the eastern end of the bridge stands the Coade Stone Lion or South Bank Lion. It was made in 1837, and stood at the entrance to the Lion Brewery next to Hungerford Bridge.

At the other end of the bridge is the statue of Queen Bodice.

Broad Sanctuary

At the southwestern corner or Parliament Square runs Broad Sanctuary. This area used to be within the precincts of Westminster Abbey and could therefore be used as a place of sanctuary. Elizabeth, the wife of Edward 4, sought refuge and gave birth to the future Edward 5, here. James 1 abolished the right in 1470.

On the south side there is a 60 ft high monument remembering the former pupils of Westminster School who fell in the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny.

Further along on the south side is Dean Yard. On the east of this street are the Abbey Cloister and Westminster School. The school was founded in 1560 by Elizabeth 1, although there had been a church school here since the 14 century. On the northern side of Deans Yard is College Hall which was built in the 14 century. It is used as a dinning hall, the tables are made out of timbers salvaged from ships of the Spanish Armada. To the east is Little Deans Yard. On the north side is Ashburnham House, the interior was designed by Inigo Jones. Wren built the Dormitory Of The Queens Scholars. Among some of the more famous pupils are, Ben Jonson, Dryden, Wren, Wesley, Gibbon. The pupils have the privilege of calling "vivat" on a monarch being crowned.

On the north side of Broad Sanctuary is Central Hall, here the United Nations General Assembly had its first session in 1946.

Queen Anne's Gate

This close was built in 1704 for William Peterson, the founder of the Bank of England. This is one of the few remaining streets from this era. At 13 there is a statue of Queen Anne. Palmerston, was born at 20 in 1784.

At the end of Queen Anne's Gate is Petty France, here John Milton wrote Paradise Lost in 1651-1660.

On Caxton Street stands the Blewcoat School, which was built in 1709.


Further south from Parliament Square, past Parliament, on the west side stands the Jewel Tower. This is the last remaining domestic part of the former palace. It was built in 1366, as the King's treasury.

On the eastern side of the street are Victoria Tower Gardens. From here there are some excellent views off the river. In the gardens there is a statue of Emmeline Pankhurst, the leader of the woman's suffrage movement. There is also a bronze copy of Rodins "Burghers of Calais", who rather than having their town destroyed surrendered it to Edward 3 in 1347.

Going along Millbank on the west side is Dean Stanley St which leads to Smith Square . In the middle of the square in the church of St John the Evangelist, built in 1721 by Thomas Archer. The church is marked by 4 baroque towers. To the north of the square is Lord North St, which leads onto Cowley and Barton Streets which are early Georgian terraces. T. E. Lawrence (as of Arabia) lived at 14 Barton St.

Further along Millbank is Horseferry Rd. the current home of Westminster Hospital. The hospital was founded in 1716 in Broad Sanctuary, it was the first to be supported by voluntary contributions. Further along are the headquarter of Channel 4 built by Forster. This area along Millbank is the former site of Millbank prison


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Copyright 1998 - 2012 Juerg Mueller. Date last modified: Monday, 24-Sep-2007 01:24:51 CEST